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Guildford’s busy Puffin crossing

Jul 2011

For the full report click here  For visual evidence of the crossing in use click here

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A pedestrian crossing of the A281 which runs north-south, parallel with the River Wey through Guildford was originally provided by a subway.  It provides a major route from the mainly pedestrianised High Street across the river to the Railway Station and the western part of the town. The subway was later supplemented by a Pelican crossing at grade but in October 2008 both were replaced by a 6.5m. wide Puffin crossing.          

Early concerns about whether traffic holdups were being caused by the Puffin crossing led to a study being carried out by the Guildford Society Transport Group.  It found that undue preference to pedestrians did, indeed, constrain the flow of southbound traffic at peak times for both.  This was referred to the Surrey County Transport Authority who adjusted the timings to reduce the congestion.  Examination of this early video footage revealed, however, that there were many occasions at these busy times, when pedestrians were found still on the crossing when the traffic signals started to change in favour of the vehicles.

This report describes the subsequent study into this Puffin operation and pedestrian behaviour at peak times for both pedestrians and traffic.  A continuous video recording was made for a period of 35 minutes on a Saturday morning in November 2010 and then analysed. 

The period under study was characterised by a continuous demand by pedestrians to cross, representing a rate of over 2000/hour.  As a result, the pedestrian lights ran the full length of the maximum clearance time for 23 of the 31 events.  40 or more pedestrians were “platooning” at each event, there being little regard for the kerbside “red man”.   There were 10 occasions which found pedestrians on the crossing when the red+amber showed for the traffic.  Enough time was allowed for vehicles in the single southbound lane to flow at some 750/hour without congestion.  

Appendix 1 provides details of the 31 events recorded.  (November 2010)

Appendix 2 provides accident data in the vicinity since the introduction of the Puffin.

Appendix 3 illustrates examples of situations on the crossing. (April 2011)

Appendix 4 shows Street Views of the location.   

Conclusion and recommendations
1.  The requirements to cater for conditions of very high pedestrian and vehicle demand in Guildford are not provided by the Puffin installation which has been investigated.   The potential for pedestrian and vehicle conflict is not eliminated with pedestrian throughputs of 2000/hour or more, representing a continuous demand on the system. The red “do not start across” signal is totally ignored under these conditions.

2.   It is recommended that the operation of this crossing be critically examined under high demand conditions and that serious consideration be given to more clearly defining for pedestrians the duration of periods when it is safe to cross.  A suggestion is made for a mechanism to achieve this by varying the duration of the green “invitation to cross” signal.